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02 Jun 2016

Western Lit: A New Book Goes Inside the Controversial Sport of Coyote Coursing

Written by  Paige Blankenbuehler

Photographs in the new book To See Them Run offer a glimpse into the Great Plains culture around coyote coursing—a sport that involves athletic hounds trained to run down coyotes.

The book, along with images by Scott Squire, includes vignettes of the collection’s main characters by writer Eric Eliason.

The sport, writes Eliason, is “an uncommercialized and never-before-studied vernacular tradition.” Although coyote hunting is widespread across the country, coursing, a subset of hunting, is relatively uncommon.

Many states allow coursing and offer bounties—in Utah, it’s $50—for each coyote carcass. Coyote-hunting contests are held in several Western states, including New Mexico, Idaho and Montana. In 2014, California became the first state to ban coyote-killing contests, which sometimes includes coursing.

Opponents of coursing say the practice perpetuates unnecessary cruelty and wildlife abuse and isn’t effective in population control. Yet proponents of the sport say it helps tamp down coyote populations and protect livestock. Available science is spotty and backs up neither in a convincing way, as High Country News reported in a February 2016 story on Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In To See Them Run, no photo shows the end of the hunt, when the greyhounds catch their prey, side-stepping the controversy entirely. In the end, that’s what is most unsettling about Eliason’s book, which keeps the gore of an otherwise bloody sport out of view.

The book provides a unique perspective on the culture to a familiar reader, but for the reader who comes to Eliason’s collection to better understand the sport, it will leave them wanting.

This review originally occurred in High Country News.

To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing

By Eric A. Eliason

University Press of Mississippi

112 pages, $40

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